Is There A Silver Lining To This COVID-19 Pandemic Cloud?

Cloud Silver Lining

The world is pretty frakked up right now. Most of us are in lock-down and are trying to keep ourselves, vulnerable friends/family, and our communities safe from the virus. That means that, for the first time for many, they are working from home (WFH). Don’t close the browser tab – this is not another “advice on how to work from home” post. Personally, I find the process of the WFH bit easy – what’s hard is not leaving the house and trying to work while the kids run amok.

Instead, I want to discuss the possible outcomes of this crisis to our working habits. Think bank a month or so ago. Most of you were in the rat race every morning and evening, commuting on packed roads or stuff public transport, to offices in locations that were convenient for no one. You had the technology to work from home, heck, the boss probably did that every day, but a lack of trust by the boss or the HR Gestapo meant that you had to march like a nice little drone into the office every day. If I was working for one of the companies in the city centre, I would have to spend 3-4 hours a day commuting by public transport from my home that is approximately 38 kilometres from there. Stupid right? Instead, I work as a consultant for a Norwegian company, from the comfort of my home in Ireland, working hand-in-hand with customers and I have spent all of 4 days in Norway for in-person meetings in the last 16 months. That’s because “we have the technology” … but so do most companies that choose to not use it.

The Cloud is cool because it’s everywhere. If I have Internet access then I can use it. I know there have been capacity issues but:

  • The spike in demand was unprecedented and unexpected
  • No cloud or hosting company keeps 100% or more of free capacity sitting idle for “just in case” … otherwise, costs would be double.

Using Office 365, Teams, other SaaS and RDS/WVD/Citrix we can do our entire job from home – assuming that you are an office worker. The current crisis has forced us to do just that! So why do we commute like good little worker bees into that office every day? It makes no sense! HR are a big part of the blame. I don’t like HR people – I can’t stand them, actually. They cannot trust employees to work from home. But I wonder how many businesses are operating OK right now? Things might not be perfect but I bet that people are adapting and finding ways to get things done. Owners of small/medium businesses might have the same doubts, but are there employees standing up, and getting the job done when the business is at risk? These are the times when you can find the keepers, the staff that are self-motivated, innovative, and should be rewarded when things normalise.

Yes, I know, this won’t suit all types of staff/services. But it will suit the typical office worker.

The M50/M4, which is normally clogged like an obese person’s artery, taken at 11:25 am on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020.

Things will get back to some semblance of normality eventually. I’m not going to say when – it might be a month, it might be next year. But do we really have to go back to the old routine again? Can’t employees be empowered to work from home? Can office space demands be reduced and the rent savings converted into WFH allowances for equipment, etc? Can governments take environmental and public transport/road savings and convert them into tax breaks/grants for building out home offices? Won’t the reduce commuting of office workers reduce the loads on already-stressed transport systems? Won’t the environment continue to improve, as it has as slightly done in the last month? We all know that something must be done to change the direction of climate change and this might be the kick in the tail that we needed. And won’t businesses continue to run, with the already-identified staff that boost that business?

If you’re a business leader or owner that has employees that can work from home, I think you should take the current provisional systems and convert them into improved (from the learnings) permanent systems. You’ve been forced to evolve for the lock-down, so learn from it, and make your staff happier, improve the environment, make your company more attractive to future employees, and maybe save a fortune in office rent.

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